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Child Actor Leukemia

It could be said that eleven year-old Shannon Tavarez became a star with relatively little struggle. The exceptional talent nailed the role of the young Nala in the Broadway hit, The Lion King, in her very first professional audition.

Unfortunately, Shannon now faces the struggle of, and for her life. In March, just six months in to her Broadway run, the eleven year-old was forced to leave the play after getting fatigued and coming down with a low-grade fever, congestion, leg and back pains.

One month later, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Shannon’s life now largely depends on her finding an appropriate donor to get a bone marrow transplant, which can be difficult given that the individual would have to be a genetic match.  Add to the challenge that both of her cultures –her mom is African-American and her dad is Latino— are severely underrepresented nationally in marrow donor registries.

DKMS America is trying to change this by holding donor drives in both communities while pushing to find a donor for Shannon along the way. The organization has scheduled upcoming drives at locations across the country, including a special one on July 23 in New York with the cast of The Lion King at the production’s Broadway home.

Please consider helping Shannon and countless others in her condition by registering as potential donors. The more of us that donate, the greater the chance a donor is located who could save her young life. Registering takes minutes — all you have to do is complete a registration form and swab your cheeks. You can arrange for this easy process today by going to or for additional information.

And God willing –with your help– Shannon Tavarez will get her chance to struggle through life like the rest of us.

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Visit her online at

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